Here we meet artist and blacksmith Simon Connett. Simon works out of his rural workshop in East Devon, where he is inspired by his natural surroundings and desire to push his craft. Simon uses many tools from Axminster, from pillar drills and clamps to an old extraction unit that breathes life to his forge. Making everything from candlesticks to large gates, Simon’s enthusiasm and passion for metalwork are infectious. We meet a craftsman who is truly happy in his work.
How did you get started out in metalwork?
I kind of fell into it totally by accident. While looking at colleges to do my foundation in art, I stumbled upon the metalwork department of Plymouth College. It was loud, dirty, full of sparks and I liked it! After my foundation year, I got the opportunity to join the HND Metalwork course at Plymouth College, that’s when it all really began for me.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a really exciting project making two candelabras for a major motion picture series, they are to sit prominently inside the main character’s mansion and have to look exactly the same as two existing candelabras, which is certainly testing my skills. There have been plenty of head-scratching moments!
What part of the making process do you most enjoy and why?
When I can finally see the end product emerging from its various parts. It’s only then I know that it’s going to look good and I can relax and enjoy putting it together.
What tools do you use in your workshop?
Obviously, the forge is the main tool I use, which I keep going with a very old modified Axminster extraction unit. Various sized hammers and an anvil are used to construct the shapes of a project. However, there are a lot of other tools which make life a lot easier, from the plasma cutter to my lovely Axminster bench drill. Clamping is a very important part of my work and I need to be able to rely on them. I’ve got plenty of G clamps in the workshop that do a job. But the best ones I’ve used are the Axminster forged G clamps; I’ve never seen a better constructed clamp.
What, or who, inspires you?
Many things inspire me, as with many artists I’m very inspired by my surroundings and as my workshop is deep in the Devon countryside I think this has influenced my work. Artists who inspire me include Henry Moore and Antoni Gaudi, whose influence I think you can see throughout my work.
What is the best advice you have ever been given and by who?
Not advice as such but a comment that has stuck with me. I’d just made a weather vane for an old farmer, when I presented it to him, he asked me if I liked my job? I replied that I love it and he said ‘if you do a job you love you never work a day in your life’ this has proved to be very true. I feel extremely lucky.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Start small, decide on the tools you really need and grow from there, the more work you do, the more work you’ll get. Try to develop your own style, and, most importantly, enjoy what you do, this will always shine through your work.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve just taken someone on to help me out through busier times, but I don’t want to go too big. I want to carry on designing and making myself. I’ve recently got some of my work into galleries, which is exciting, and something I want to do more of. I still want to keep continuing with my gates and railings and to keep pushing myself in the craft I love.
If you enjoyed this Meet The Maker, catch up on the series here.
Simon has his own take on health and safety. However, Axminster recommends, when working in any workshop, you should follow the proper health and safety guidelines.